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Google Has Open Sourced Android 4.0

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Google has released the source code for Android Ice Cream Sandwich and a new Native Development Kit.

Google has made available the Ice Cream Sandwich source code, Android 4.0.1, the version that powers the upcoming Galaxy Nexus smartphone built by Samsung. The source code contains all the previous Honeycomb releases but there are no corresponding tags because “we want everyone to focus on Ice Cream Sandwich”, said Jean-Baptiste Queru, a software engineer working on Android. Queru admits that Google cut some corners with the Honeycomb development and it was incomplete, and they do not want anybody to continue using Android 3.0 but rather move to 4.0.

Google and several manufacturers hurried up last spring to bring Android tablets to the market before Apple would announced iPad 2, in an attempt to take some of this very lucrative market. Later Google announced that they won’t make available the source code for Honeycomb until later this year, move that was considered by some as a step back from the openness initially promised. But Google has returned to their practice to release the source code around the time a new flagship device hits the market, calming down the fears that their Android policy might change. It looks like the problem was the quality of Honeycomb’s code rather than an interest in holding back the source code.

Google has also made available a new version of the Native Development Kit, a set of tools allowing developers to write performance critical portions of their applications in C or C++. NDK r7 adds support for Android API 4.0 (level 14) including low-level multimedia streaming based on Khronos OpenMAX AL 1.0.1, and audio decoding to PCM format based on Khronos OpenSL ES.

An experimental feature enables builds on Windows without using Cygwin. The Release Notes detail all the improvements and bug fixes coming in NDK r7.

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